How Are People Listening and What Happens Next?

You may have gathered that I’m a fan of radio data.

I love it because deep down I’m really a fan of listeners. I think radio’s job is to cater for their tastes, interests and needs, as well as giving them the occasional surprise by providing them something they didn’t know that they wanted.

To a do a good job at this, you have to understand them and their lives.

I am always wary of people who slag of (any form) of radio research. How arrogant to think that you, on your own, know what’s best for other people?

Now, I have a strong idea of what people want because of the experience I’ve built up making radio and radio stations, but I always want to test these ideas from real feedback from the listener.

In this modern multi-media platform world, it’s much harder know what people want, because their world is changing. Tablets, Sonos, Wifi, Spotify, YouTube, Facebook – (for non early adopters) the last five years have been incredibly disruptive. People have formed super-strong new habits with new technology and content.

You would be fucking mental if you didn't think this has had an effect on 'our' listeners. Click To Tweet

Reach and Hours as a measurement has been pretty good for radio. It tracks how many people we’re reaching and how much time they’re spending with us. Where people used radio and how they listened has never been that important – it’s always been a car radio or a home/office radio.

The battle we’ve fought has been against each other. The battle we’re now facing is winning people’s time.

To do that it’s essential that we understand how we’re doing in different places, against other devices. It’s vital to be able to see where you are, to work out where you want to go and then how you’re going to do it.

It’s great that RAJAR have published its MIDAS survey in more detail than they previously have – really looking at how time listening to audio is split amongst radio, streaming, music videos on YouTube etc as well as how that changes with different ages and different devices. There’s quite a bit in there, but what I find interesting is where radio is winning the battle for time and where we’re losing.

And indeed, what we should defend and what areas should we attack?

On the face of it, it’s pretty good news:

shareofaudiotime

Live radio still totally dominates in listening. We’re lucky because we’ve got these industry-specific audio-consumption devices (radios) that people have got and love. We have vendor lock-in! A proprietary device that limits the number of new entrants – APPLE HAVE NOTHING ON US.

 

When we look at how people are listening to ‘live radio’ it’s these devices that continue to rule.

bydevice

This chart is the reason that there are no successful internet radio stations in the UK (my judge of success – actual listeners, run as a business, making money, investing in content).

To have any chance of being successful you need to be on FM/AM, DAB or, at a push DTV. If you’re playing on the other platforms, even if you’re doing AN AMAZING job, there just isn’t the volume of listening to be able to do well.

However there is a tyranny with the success of our platform. Live radio is significantly challenged in other places.

newplatforms

We’re doing okay in the PC world – but streaming services are coming up fast. I think it’s amazing that our PC listening is so strong when, generally, our web products are pretty dreadful. Why aren’t we building on the success of Radioplayer to build out more cross-industry web products? We need to strengthen our lead there, not let it be lost.

Similarly what’s our, and when I say our, I mean YOUR station but also our industry approach to creating something great for tablets – it’s our least successful new platform. When was that last time someone even mentioned it in your station?

On the mobile, I think we face our biggest challenge. There is lots of good stuff on a phone that’s non-audio but it eats into our time with listeners.  Looking at audio specifically – podcasts are doing well, and music video is starting to make an impact – where are our products in those sectors? Not, where is Station FM’s podcasts – but where are we working together to show radio industry content and make our brilliant stuff discoverable?

Today we dominate audio listening, driven by radio devices. We reach 90% of the country and they spend a ridiculous amount of time with us. It’s time to take that lead, reach and impact and start invading other sectors, doing a better job to defend and grow radio’s position.